Ferrari take solace from Vettel’s Brazilian Grand Prix win
World champion Hamilton makes impressive comeback from crash to take fourth
Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen driving the Scuderia Ferrari SF70H during the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo, Brazil. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty
Sebastian Vettel won the Brazilian Grand Prix for Ferrari, putting in a commanding performance to beat the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas into second place, with Kimi Raikkonen taking third. Lewis Hamilton, crowned world champion at the last round in Mexico, had started from the pit lane at the Autodromo José Carlos Pace after crashing in qualifying but came back with a determined and aggressive drive to secure an impressive fourth place.
The championship has been decided but Vettel has been clear he wanted a strong finish to the season and the win will be of some solace for the German and Ferrari. Vettel said on Saturday that he and the team would have “failed” if they did not secure second place in the championship, behind Hamilton. He was 15 points ahead of Bottas and now goes into the final round in Abu Dhabi with a 22-point lead and that second place almost assured.
Hamilton too enjoyed his afternoon. After starting from the pit lane, having fitted a new power unit overnight in order to run the engine at maximum output, he made the most of it and came through the field with a series of decisive moves.
He had come back from 17th to third here in 2009 and although he could not quite match it, with the championship decided he could make the most of his charge and did so with great verve. His fourth was perhaps as much as he and Mercedes could have expected.
Ferrari can also take heart in finally returning to the top step. They have not won since the 11th round in Hungary – when Vettel led the championship – and have since endured a torrid end to the season that saw the title slip away. It is Vettel’s and Ferrari’s fifth win of the season, after the German won in Australia, Bahrain, Monaco and Hungary and his third win at Interlagos, after taking two for Red Bull in 2010 and 2013.
The Scuderia will be hugely satisfied with converting his second place on the grid into the win, albeit without competition at the front from Hamilton. They had not been able to quite reach the Mercedes in qualifying but had been hopeful that race pace would allow them to match Bottas and it proved to be the case, optimistic indications that they can take into 2018.
His victory is a positive sign for the team in that the car has previously proved how well balanced it is and demonstrated strength through the corners, but at Interlagos they showed form on the two long straights. The German controlled the race with great skill, finishing with a deserved victory but will, perhaps, be left wondering what might have been but for his crash at Singapore, engine change in Malaysia and a spark plug failure in Japan.
Opening lap incidents
Vettel had a superb start, with better acceleration once they were off the line and jumped Bottas on the short run into turn one but the safety car was almost immediately deployed after Romain Grosjean went into the side of the Force India of Esteban Ocon. After opening lap incidents in which Daniel Ricciardo span off when Stoffel Vandoorne made contact with Kevin Magnussen, putting both of them out, Hamilton made it up to 14th.
Vettel consequently stretched his legs out front, untroubled in the clean air and was consistently just under two seconds clear of Bottas and although Mercedes attempted to undercut through the only pit stop of the race, he was able to maintain his lead.
Hamilton scythed through the midfield and had made it to fifth on lap 20 at which point he was 13 seconds behind Raikkonen in third. The British driver stayed out until lap 44, when he took the quicker, supersoft rubber to take him to the flag at which point he trailed Max Verstappen in fourth by eight seconds and Raikkonen by 12 seconds. Vettel was secure at the head of the field and driving with great control but for Hamilton the chase for a podium was on.
He set about it after Verstappen had caught him by lap 59 and took fourth, five seconds behind Raikkonen and then put in some very quick laps to catch the Finn. He was with him at the death but with his tyres losing grip did not have quite enough to take the place. Vettel thoroughly deserved the win but Hamilton, hurling himself at Interlagos, offered a clear reminder of why he took his fourth title this year.
On an afternoon defined by Vettel’s confident victory and overtaking from the back, Ricciardo was also fully committed to the latter and after his spin he came back to claim sixth with an impressive display, behind Verstappen in fifth. Williams’ Felipe Massa bowed out in seventh place from his final Brazilian Grand Prix to a huge reception from the home crowd and Fernando Alonso converted his best grid position since he rejoined McLaren of sixth, into eighth place. Force India’s Sergio Perez was in ninth and Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg in 10th.